Joe Pavelski’s first home playoff game for the Dallas Stars was a memorable one.
The 37-year-old veteran scored both the equalizing and winning goals for the Stars in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames to a take a 2-1 lead in their playoff series.
“First game here in Dallas in front of theses fans in the playoffs, it lived up to it,” Pavelski said. “I’d heard nothing but great things. Nice to get that win and take another step.”
Radek Faska also scored and Roope Hintz added an empty-net goal, while Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger stopped 39 shots in front of a sellout of 18,532 at American Airlines Center.
Trevor Lewis and Elias Lindholm replied for the Flames with Jacob Markstrom turning away 28 of 31 shots in Calgary’s net.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven affair is Monday in Dallas before returning to Calgary for Wednesday’s Game 5.
If necessary, Game 6 is Friday back in Dallas and a Game 7 would be Sunday in Calgary.
After Pavelski’s signing in 2019, the Stars didn’t have a home playoff game until Saturday.
Dallas reached the Stanley Cup final in Edmonton’s 2020 playoff bubble where they lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars fell short of the post-season last year.
The Flames (50-21-11) topped the Pacific Division and the Stars (46-30-6) earned the Western Conference’s first wild-card berth.
Calgary opened the conference quarterfinal with a 1-0 win before falling 2-0 to the Stars at the Saddledome.
When a best-of-seven series is tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 holds an all-time series record of 228-110 (.675), according to NHL statisticians.
“Win one game, we’ve got home ice back and that’s the goal coming in here,” Flames forward Blake Coleman said. “There’s no panic in our room.”
Pavelski scored his second of the game and the first power-play goal of the series for the Stars – after going 0-for-11 – at 10:05 of the third period for the go-ahead goal.
His 14th career playoff game-winner is the most among active NHL players, according to the Stars.
“He’s always around the net. He knows there’s a timing to get there,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “There’s a timing anticipating the shot. He’s got it down pat.
“Sometimes when you’re power play is not clicking, you get a little tense. Our guys were a little tight. I think that goal tonight is really going to help us.”
With Coleman in the box for laying his stick on Pavelski’s arm, the latter potted a rebound off a Vladislav Namestnikov shot for his third goal of the series.
“Penalty with seven minutes left, you can’t take it,” Coleman said.
Oettinger denied Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau on a breakaway with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
“Hard-fought, close games,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. “Breakaway with about two or three minutes left. Guy’s got to put it away. Their job.”
Pavelski pulled the hosts even at 11:41 of the second period.
After Markstrom’s sprawling glove save on Stars defenceman Miro Heiskanen, Pavelski shovelled a rebound on a subsequent Heiskanen shot by Markstrom caught at his right post.
“You see the puck’s coming, you try to get free and feel like you’re boxed out, so you’re just trying to get to the next space,” Pavelski said.
“It’s nice when the pucks lay there for you and you’ve got some space to work with them.”
The Stars continued to give the Flames little real estate in front of Oettinger and force shooters to the outside, although Calgary’s first goal scored by Lewis was from close range.
The Flames were both more responsible with the puck and more of a match physically with the Stars in Game 2, but goals remained scarce in the post-season from a team that ranked sixth in the NHL in that department.
“We’ve just got to dig down a little deeper and find out what we’re made of and hit those second and third efforts,” Lewis said.
“Get to the net and get those greasy goals.”
Calgary led 2-1 at 3:40 of the second period when Lindholm capped a tic-tac-toe passing sequence by Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk with a one-timer.
Lewis batted in a rebound from Oettinger’s doorstep after a Milan Lucic effort there at 13:45 of the first period. Bowness was denied a challenge for goaltender interference by Lucic.
Faksa scored a four-on-four goal for the Stars at 9:21 of the opening period. Dallas and Calgary have played eight minutes of four-on-four in back-to-back games.
“We’ve got to find a way to finish,” Coleman said. “The strength of our game is five-on-five and we spent too much time with ticky-tacky, four-on-four hockey.”
Tkachuk and Stars defenceman John Klingberg continued their running feud in the series with a fight 82 seconds after the opening faceoff.
They tangled and took coincidental minors less than a minute into Game 2.